Geneva prosecutor closes Obiang case, sells off 25 luxury cars

Geneva authorities seized 25 luxury cars belonging to the vice president of Equatorial Guinea. © KEYSTONE / LAURENT GILLIERON

The Geneva Prosecutor’s Office has closed an investigation into Teodorin Obiang, the son of the president of Equatorial Guinea, regarding money laundering and mismanagement of public assets.

This content was published on February 7, 2019 - 20:02

Prosecutors said on Thursday that Equatorial Guinea had agreed to pay Geneva authorities CHF1.3 million ($1.3 million) in “procedural costs”. These involved requests for legal assistance to the United States, the Cayman Islands and Marshall Islands, France, the Netherlands, Monaco and Denmark, the prosecutor’s office saidExternal link on Thursday. 

Geneva officials opened the inquiry into Obiang and two others in October 2016 at the request of French authorities and later seized 25 luxury vehicles in Geneva in autumn 2016. In December of the same year, the "Ebony Shine" yacht was confiscated in the Netherlands following a request for judicial cooperation as part of the investigation. 

The prosecutor’s office said that all 25 cars seized in Geneva will be sold and the proceeds given to a social programme in Obiang’s home country. 

This will be implemented "transparently on the basis of an international accord negotiated by the Swiss foreign ministry", the prosecutor’s office said. The "Ebony Shine" yacht has been released, it added.

The statement did not give details about the cars or which of the defendants owned them.

In 2016, the Swiss weekly magazine L'Hebdo reported that the seized vehicles included a Porsche 918 Spider valued at €750,000 euros, a Bugatti Veyron worth €2 million and a Swedish supercar, the Koenigsegg One:1. Only seven Koenigsegg One:1 models have been built, initially selling for around €2 million.

+ Read about Equatorial Guinea’s reaction to the case

In 2017, Obiang was sentenced to three years’ probation for embezzlement and corruption in France. The 49-year-old financed his luxurious life with embezzled money from the treasury of Equatorial Guinea. The French judiciary seized clothes, jewellery, works of art, real estate and luxury cars worth CHF200 million. 

In June 2017, a Swiss court refused requests from Equatorial Guinea to release the vehicles seized in Geneva.

Obiang was named vice-president of Equatorial Guinea in June 2016 by his father and the country’s president Teodoro Obiang Nguema. Nguema has been in power for nearly 40 years, making him Africa’s longest-ruling dictator.  

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